ASSAY

2003

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For a number of years I have been creating artwork that explores the intersection between science and the human imagination. The intertwining of art and science in my artistic practice is personal, in that it is what I have studied and been drawn to since grade school. But it is also founded in social history and art. Many artists have looked to science and nature as an inspiration. Landscape artists such as Constable took extensive scientific notes on cloud formations; Paterson Ewen’s art followed the inspiration from his studies of natural and cosmic phenomena. Today, the advent of biotechnology and the mapping of human genome has many artists speculating about the parameters of life in their aesthetic practice. My artwork also reflects this intersection, concentrating on the biological forces that make us human, from the processes and materials needed to form an organism (water, heat, minerals) to exploring the microscopic world of molecular and cellular ecologies.

Assay is an installation that is composed of salt crystals that have been grown on a series of gridded metal panels. Each wire panel acts as a vector, a metal matrix that radiates with diaphanous salt crystals that were nurtured and grown. It is hard not to think of these crystals as organic, but they are not. They are lithic, geological, inorganic -- a mineral, not a cell. Yet they have been grown on the panels, giving them the appearance of being organic. Salt is the foundation for life, from our primordial past in a briny ocean to our fetal beginnings in the salty milk of amniotic fluid. Salt is also the most common inorganic substance in the human body. Yet we can grow crystals of salt, as a gesture mimicking organic growth, trespassing the boundaries between organic and inorganic, and between microscopic and macroscopic. Assay is as much about the exploration of materials, especially of the organic and inorganic, as it is about human ecology.

Assay, as an installation, reconfigures the foundational material realities of biological organisms into an animated environment. The effect of casting light on the installation creates a space where the play of light radiates, reflects and refracts off the thousands of salt crystals evoking a glittering illusion of life. It presents the viewer with the opportunity to experience the installation intimately and interactively, or from a distance as an illusionary organism of light and form.

We are at the threshold when scientific research and experimentation is rewriting the definition of life. My artistic practice is informed by on-going developments in biological science and biotechnology. Ultimately, my work examines the intersections between art and science, between what we create and what we think we are.

 

 

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